Set in Nova Scotia, Maudie is about Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins), who suffers from crippling arthritis and has always struggled to walk normally because of a birth defect. Her aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) and brother Charles (Zachary Bennett) often tell her that she can’t look after herself, and society seems to consistently send the message that she’ll never amount to much. Maud, however, has a strong spirit, a determination to do what she loves and a deep desire to make her way in the world regardless of what other people think. She believes in herself and in her own self-worth.
When Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), a rough, lonely, local fisherman advertises at the local grocery store for a live-in maid, Maud applies for the job. When no-one else applies, Everett gives her the job but treats her terribly. Maud is ostracised by her family because everyone says she’s living with Everett as his love slave.
Trying to bring a little happiness to her new life, Maud begins to paint again. She starts with the windows and walls of the house and quickly moves onto cards and pieces of scrap from the wood pile. A chance encounter with Sandra (Kari Matchett), who is visiting from New York, helps Maud to start selling her paintings. She becomes something of a local celebrity. Newspapers feature articles about Maud and her art, she and Everett appear on TV, and the President of the United States buys some of her work. Countless others come to their quiet corner of Nova Scotia to see this famous artist and buy her paintings.As time goes by Everett’s feelings soften towards Maud. They marry, and a deep love and affection begins to grow between them. Ultimately they both find happiness with each other, although it doesn’t last as long as they would like.
Themes of sexism and chauvinism run throughout Maudie. For most of her life Maud is put down and made to feel inadequate and incapable, first because she walks with a limp and second because she’s a woman.
The movie also has secondary themes of abandonment and separation. For example, Everett was raised in an orphanage and has a fear of being abandoned. He pushes people away as a result. Also, when Maud was young, she gave birth to an illegitimate baby girl. Maud’s brother and aunt sold the baby as soon as she was born, and led Maud to believe that the baby had died. This event haunts her.
Maudie has some violence. For example:
- Maud tells Everett how some local kids throw stones at her.
- Everett pounds on tables and benches when he’s frustrated or angry. He also throws things around and screams at Maud.
- Everett hits Maud hard in the face and yells at her to go inside.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Maudie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example, at the end of the movie, Maud suffers a terrible emphysema attack. She makes horrible gurgling, raspy sounds as she collapses to the floor and tries to call for Everett. Her face contorts and her body is more misshapen and arthritic at this point. Young viewers might be disturbed by the sudden intensity of the scene.
In addition to the violent scenes and disturbing visual images mentioned above, Maudie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example, Maud kills a chicken to make a soup. The scene cuts out with the chicken’s head on a piece of wood right before Maud slams the hatchet down on the chopping block.
Younger children in this age group might be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
Nothing of concern
Maudie has several sexual references. For example:
- Maud tells her aunt that she went to a club to find some ‘friends’. Her aunt retorts, ‘Remember what happened the last time that you found “friends”’.
- There are references to Maud’s reputation and the illegitimate birth of a daughter.
- The townspeople talk about Maud being Everett’s love slave.
- A friend of Everett’s comments on their living situation. Maud responds that they like ‘being cosy’.
- When Everett lies on top of Maud in bed and undoes his pants, she tells him she doesn’t want to get in trouble again and that if he wants to do that, they should get married first. Everett stops what he’s doing.
- When Maud makes sexual advances to Everett in bed, he turns his back on her and says, ‘I’d rather stick it in a tree’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Maudie shows some use of substances. For example:
- Maud is a smoker. She smokes in several scenes and ultimately dies of complications arising from her use of cigarettes.
- Maud is shown in a night club drinking a bottle of beer.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is no nudity in Maudie, but Maud and Everett are shown in bed several times. In one scene they seem to be making love, although they both appear to be fully clothed.
Maudie has some coarse language. It also includes insults and language that’s derogatory to women and people with disabilities.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Maudie is a slow-paced, romantic drama based on the real-life story of Maud Lewis. It isn’t a feel-good movie – many scenes are both confronting and overwhelmingly sad at the same time. There is, however, a sense of hope that permeates the movie as a whole.
The movie is likely to appeal to more mature audiences, who are likely to appreciate the stellar performances from both Hawkins and Hawke.
Because of its lack of interest for young children, sexual references, and disturbing scenes and themes, Maudie isn’t recommended for children under 14 years.
The main messages from this movie are to be true to yourself and to believe you can find happiness and beauty anywhere.
If you have older teenagers who see the movie, note that it raises issues that you might want to discuss with them. For example, you might want to talk about why Maud stays with a man who treats her so badly. Although Everett eventually grows to love Maud, this doesn’t always happen. Physical, psychological and verbal family violence are never OK, and victims should seek help.